The sudden arrival of a day that is about 30 degrees cooler that what we’ve been having has sent me scurrying into the kitchen to make a serious, hearty ham and bean soup, maybe some chili, and something quick, warm and cozy for today while the rest of the weekend cooking is in progress.

I love the multiple flavors and textures of a 15-been soup, but one of the frustrations is how differently the various beans cook.  This sent me to Cook’s Illustrated for information on how best to soak my beans.

They recommended a brine for the soak:  3 tablespoons of table salt per gallon per 1 pound of dried beans.  (If you’re using kosher salt see Conversions page for equivalents).  So the beans are soaking!  I’m doing the full pound so that I can stock the freezer with bean soup for the winter since it’s a favorite meal.

Since I did not plan ahead I have wait for the beans to soak, I’ll have to cook something else for today’s cool weather food– mac ‘n’ beef sounds like good cool weather food.

♦♦♦

I found a recipe that looked easy and quick in Cook’s Country–a skillet version.  Only drawback was that I needed to be out running errands and wanted food when I got back.  Since I’d discovered that I can make a decent macaroni and cheese in my rice cooker, I decided to try making it in that.  The other thing I like with my macaroni and beef is chunks of tomatoes, not just some tomato sauce so I did a little modification of the recipe, and enjoyed my comfort food on a chilly day.

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces of elbow macaroni (or any small tubular pasta)
  • 3/4 pound of lean ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 14.5-ounce can of diced fire-roasted tomatoes, drained reserving liquid
  • 1 10-ounce can of diced tomatoes and green chilies, drained reserving liquid
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 6 medium cloves of garlic, put through press
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon of Hungarian half-sweet paprika or smoked Spanish paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  •  2-1/2 cups of liquid (juice of tomatoes brought up to this volume with water)

Assembly

  • Cook onion in the olive oil until just starting to brown in a skillet on the stove-top.
  • Add ground beef and break up, and brown.
  • Add garlic, paprika and oregano, and continue to cook until fragrant.
  • Transfer to bowl of rice cooker and add drained tomatoes and the liquid.
  • Add macaroni and mix well.
  • Set on the rice cooking cycle; it switches to warm/hold when done.
I got back from running errands and there was my mac ‘n’ beef ready to eat.  I have several more servings…a couple are destined to go into the freezer for future use.   Some will get reheated in the oven in the next few days (topped with some cheddar cheese and put under the broiler until it’s nice and brown).

♦♦♦

I don’t have a lot of specialty appliances in my kitchen, but one that has earned a permanent spot on my counter is my Krups rice cooker which also functions as a steamer and a slow cooker–and you can steam and cook rice at the same time.  You can also use it to cook pasta.

One of the things I discovered in the recipe book that came with it was a recipe for macaroni and cheese cooked using the rice cooking mode.  I was pleased with the results with a bit of modification in the ingredients.  The pasta does not overcook–just like rice does not overcook so I was inspired to try the macaroni and beef in it and it  worked well.

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